Saturday, January 23
Winter in Madagascar: Darwin Orchids, Voodoo Lilies, and "Crack Plants"
It hasn't just been my own garden (and housecleaning!) that have fallen by the wayside this year. I haven't been able to spend near as much time volunteering at the Botanical Garden as I would have liked. So on Thursday, during a rare day off, I decided that I needed a little dirt therapy more than I needed extra sleep or time to vacuum... and I headed east to put in a few hours at the glasshouse. Little did I know what excitement awaited me!
Before we get to that, though, I have to show another photo of the HUGE Bismarck palm that always leaves me a little bit in awe:
See the little window in the "cliff face" in front of the Bismarckia? The glasshouse also includes some native denizens of Madagascar, like these two yellow plated lizards:
Okay, you're right, one photo of the Bismarck palm isn't really enough. This second one shows how friendly it is... see it getting all touchy-feeling with its (sometimes prickly) neighbors?
Alright, alright. I know. Time to move on. Let's go to another one of my other favorite areas of the Madagascar Glasshouse. Here's the "reef" that Joe built for this past summer's feature on succulents:
I was a little surprised to see it still existed (sans a few large potted succulents that filled the two gaps you see in the front) but Joe said that it was pretty popular, so it will probably stay and just be reworked. A few of the plants in it are currently blooming:
Above the reef, you can see some of the many plant pockets that were built into the plateau/cliff faces. When Joe leaves me directions to water these, he calls them the "crevice plants" or something else a little more proper, but I am amused to think of them as "crack plants" instead. See the little square thing on the wall in the right side of the photo? That's a moisture sensor of some kind... I'm not sure what they do, really, I just know that I have to be careful not to water them or they'll be ruined.
Some more crazy crack plants for you to enjoy:
Yes, those last four photos show the same pachypodium in flower. I couldn't decide which photo I liked the best, so I posted them all! By the way, don't some of these "crack garden" succulents remind you of sea creatures, too? This looks like a bunch of lobster claws all strung together:
I love the delicate beauty and varying colors of the euphorbia blooms. Here are a few more, followed by a whole pot of them set out for Christmas decor:
Until you turn the corner, you might think that this gorgeous urn full of the Darwin orchid, angraecum sesquipedale (an-GRY-kum ses-kwee-PEE-dahl) must be the piece de resistance of the potted plants in the glasshouse today:
This gorgeous orchid has a 12-inch-long nectar spur, which led Charles Darwin to theorize that it must have a pollinator with a 12-inch-long proboscis. (Hence its common name of "The Darwin Orchid.") Recently, this moth was discovered by humans, proving Darwin right. But his orchid still isn't the most interesting potted plant in the garden. These plants win that contest, if only by a nose:
I know... *groan*... but I just had to indulge my punny bone and go for the cheap laugh! These are, of course, amorphophallus. Also called corpse flowers, voodoo lilies, and all kinds of other interesting names, you definitely smell them before you see them. But when you see them, you can't help but be fascinated by these Seussian beauties. Here are a few more (fragrance-free) looks:
So how bad did they smell in person? REALLY bad. Like a whole sack of rotting potatoes with a little bit of country roadkill thrown in. I kept thinking that I would get used to it while I was cleaning up these pretty blooming kalanchoe of a few mildewy leaves...
... but I didn't. Just when I thought I was winning the "mind over matter" match, I'd get a fresh whiff of eau de rotting flesh and felt my nose wrinkle in reaction. So let's just take one more closer look at the kalanchoe blooms (oops, the plant formerly known as a kalanchoe, I mean--I think that Joe said this one got shifted around on the botanical family tree recently) and then move on:
As I mentioned earlier, there are some creatures included in the Madagascar exhibit, and not all of them are behind plated glass. Just past the tortoise enclosure is one of the bird feeders that starts out clean and full at the beginning of each day... and it was here that I finally--FINALLY--captured one of the tiny birds stealing a late afternoon snack:
A baby bird in the Costa Rican rainforest glasshouse had fallen out of its nest in the late afternoon and had to receive some attention from Joe. But in a happier wildlife encounter... I got to water this girl today:
See her in the middle of the frame, facing left? She's one of the chameleons on exhibit (they're switched in and out of the exhibit, one at a time) and while I was working, she had climbed down much closer to the pathway. Joe let me water her--which basically involves spraying her with a fine mist until she either starts drinking the beads that form on her snout or walks away to let you know she isn't having any of this watering business.
I have to say that was the highlight of my Thursday afternoon at the Botanical Garden! All in all, the time spent volunteering did me good on a great many levels. It will be a couple of weeks before I have a day off again... but when the next day off comes, I pretty much know where I will be. :)